Feed the Alien! The Effects of a Nutrition Instruction Game on Children's Nutritional Knowledge and Food Intake

Roel C. J. Hermans, Nina van den Broek*, Chantal Nederkoorn, Roy Otten, Emilie L. M. Ruiter, Mina C. Johnson-Glenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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OBJECTIVE: Serious games are a promising venue to increase children's nutritional knowledge in an entertaining format. The aim of this study was to test the short-term effectiveness of the Alien Health Game, a videogame designed to teach elementary school children about nutrition and healthy food choices.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: To examine the effects of the Alien Health Game, an experimental design with a single between-subjects factor (experimental condition vs. active control condition) was used. A total of 108 Dutch children (10-13 years; 58 boys) were randomly assigned to either play Alien Health using the Kinect sensor for two consecutive days, for 1 hour of gameplay (experimental condition; n = 50), or a web-based nutrition game for the same period (active control condition; n = 58). Participants' nutritional knowledge was assessed at pretest, immediate, and at 2-week follow-up. Food intake was assessed at immediate and 2-week follow-up.

RESULTS: Participants who played Alien Health had better knowledge of the five most important macronutrients of foods at immediate posttest, but not at follow-up. Participants were better able to distinguish the healthier food item out of two options over time, but this effect did not differ for those in the experimental versus the active control condition. No differences in food intake, neither in the consumption of nutrient-dense or energy-dense foods, were found between children playing both games.

CONCLUSION: A brief game-based intervention like the Alien Health Game has the potential to improve children's nutritional knowledge in the short term, but may not be strong enough to increase nutritional knowledge and actual eating behavior in the long term. Further investigation is warranted before this game is applied in future nutrition education programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-174
Number of pages11
JournalGames for Health Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Nutrition education
  • Children
  • Serious games
  • Games for health


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